A Teesside firm is to be given almost £500,000 to continue vital work with a 1mm worm that could help slow the ageing process in humans.

Magnitude Biosciences Limited, a specialist provider of research services to the longevity, nutraceuticals, and pharmaceutical industries based at NETPark in Sedgefield, has been awarded a Future Economy Investor Partnerships grant of nearly £250,000 by Innovate UK, which provides money and support to organisations to make new products and services.

The money will be matched by an investment from the North East (ERDF) Innovation Fund Limited Partnership, supported by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by Northstar Ventures Limited, a venture capital and social investment firm based in the North East.

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Magnitude Biosciences uses C. elegans, a 1mm long nematode worm to identify compounds that could slow ageing or prevent age-related diseases. C. elegans has physiological similarities to humans and has been used by scientists investigating the mechanism of ageing for more than 40 years. It has a very short lifespan so compounds can be assessed in just seven days.

The North East (ERDF) Innovation Fund Limited Partnership is currently an investor in Magnitude Biosciences.Its fund is a suite of five venture capital and loan funds which was established in April 2018, to invest £130m in around 600 North East businesses.

The Northern Echo: The Magnitude teamThe Magnitude team (Image: Magnitude)

The fund managers provide business development advice and investment finance to small and medium sized enterprises based in the seven Local Authority areas of North East England: Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle, South Tyneside, Gateshead Sunderland and County Durham.

Magnitude was founded in 2018 by a team of the world’s leading C. elegans and automated imaging experts who shared the vision of bringing the benefits of this unique research approach to industry, helping to accelerate the development of new drug therapies and other research advances to improve human and environmental health.

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Although there are many C. elegans labs around the world, there are very few commercial labs that exist to apply the benefits of their research to the biotechnology and consumer goods industries.

Magnitude Biosciences has already developed its own novel imaging technology to monitor the effects of compounds on the worms. This new grant will enable further automation to be introduced to increase the number of compounds that can be screened. This will dramatically increase the chances that customers will find potentially effective compounds and ensure that Magnitude Biosciences remains competitive.